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The Washington Center

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The Washington Center

Headquarters of The Washington Center

The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, less formally known as The Washington Center, is an independent, nonprofit organization serving hundreds of universities in the United States and other countries. The Washington Center provides selected college students challenging opportunities to work and learn in Washington D.C. for academic credit. The largest program of its kind, The Washington Center has over 50,000 alumni, many of who are in leadership positions in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

The Washington Center holds leadership positions in virtually every career field, including law, education, social work, medicine, journalism, diplomacy, business and politics. Several serve on The Washington Center’s Board of Directors.

Its headquarters is located within the Sixteenth Street Historic District.



The late William M. Burke founded The Washington Center in the fall of 1975. Burke was committed to providing equal access and opportunity for all students and he believed that exchange between individuals from diverse communities is essential for personal growth and civic responsibility. He envisioned a new generation of leaders working to better communities throughout the world.


William M. Burke and Sheila Ann McRevey founded The Washington Center for Learning Alternatives. With a staff of four, it began operating out of a one-room office in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. The Washington Center recruited 51 students from 35 colleges to participate in internships during the fall of 1975.

The Exxon Education Foundation provided The Washington Center with its first major grant, enabling the organization to increase its staff to eight and move operations to DeSales Street in Northwest. RJR Nabisco funded the first Presidential Lecture Series (in what year), featuring prominent speakers from government, businesses, associations, and the media.

The first three-week academic symposium, “Politics-Domestic and International Affairs” was organized (in what year), launching The Washington Center’s academic seminars department.


New scholarship opportunities were created by organizations such as the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, The Minority Scholarship Fund, The MacArthur Foundation, and The National Scholarship Fund. Additionally, Public Policy Dialogues on Capitol Hill (PPDCH) was established in (what year), providing students with the opportunity to meet and interact with members of Congress. Verizon currently funds this program.

Seminars also become a stable part of The Washington Center’s programming during this decade. A number of seminars are launched including The Women as Leaders Academic Seminar, two-week academic seminars at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and Inside Washington: Presidential Inauguration.

The Washington Center for Learning Alternatives is renamed The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars in 1986. Also, The International Business School of Sweden begins an internship program in collaboration with The Washington Center.


The Environmental Internship Program and a related relationship was forged with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.). Also, the Diversity in Congress was formed with funding from the Ford Foundation, the Ford Motor Company Fund, the Carnegie Corporation and AT&T. Furthermore, The Hearst Endowed Scholarship for Minority Students was established along with The Women’s Leadership Internship Program, The College Plus One Internship Program for recent college graduates, The Cordova Congressional Internship Program for Puerto Rican students was formed in partnership with the Puerto Rican Legislative Assembly, The NAFTA Leaders Program, The Mass Communications Program, The Governors Internship Program (which was formed with the leadership of several Mexican states),

At this time, The Washington Center expanded its international programs to enable students from Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the former Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and other countries to participate in the The Washington Center internship program. The Washington Center’s state initiative program was formally organized to develop scholarship funds for students from participating states including Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, and West Virginia. The National Society for Experiential Education also awards The Washington Center the first Partner Award for Experiential Education during this decade.


During this decade, a number of new programs were created, expanding the academic depth and reach for students attending The Washington Center programs. Spring and fall semester enrollment surpasses 1,000 and summer semester enrollment surpasses 500 for the first time, as well. The Embassy Visit Program was also established to aid in organizing visits to embassies of “nations in the news” such as Botswana, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, India, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey.

In addition to all of this, The Federal Government Initiative was established, providing students with increased opportunities to intern with the federal government. Partnerships with federal agencies, including the E.P.A., the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor, are expanded to provide additional funding for interns. Michael B. Smith, who started at The Washington Center in 1976, was named President in 2004. The Washington Center moved to its new permanent location on 1333 16th Street NW in 2007.

The Campaign 2008 Seminar Series enrolled more than 700 participants. The Washington Center partnered with 130 colleges and universities to bring their students to President Obama’s inauguration. More than 700 college students from 47 states and 14 countries participated in a 10-day inauguration program.

Construction of a Student Residential and Academic Facility in Washington D.C. began in 2009.

The Washington Center also developed signature programs with The Boeing Company, Coca-Cola Foundation, Ford Motor Company and Prudential Foundation to bring students from Brazil, China, India, Ghana, Japan, Korea, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan and Vietnam.


The Washington Center opened its first Residential and Academic Facility in Washington D.C. in NoMa at 1005 3rd Street NE. The Washington Center also launched InternsROCK!, the first-ever citywide intern appreciation week. The initiative honors approximately 20,000 interns who flock to the nation’s capital each year to test-drive their careers at local businesses, nonprofits and government agencies.


The Washington Center offers programs in which students are placed in leading organizations and government agencies such as USA Today, the Peace Corps, and the Department of Defense. Students are provided a place to live and are given the opportunity to attend some of The Washington Center’s programming activities such as Career Boot Camp and the Simpson-Mineta Leaders Series. Over 75% of students receive some form of financial assistance beyond their usual campus-based aid.

Internship Programs Include (but are not limited to):

  • Advocacy, Service & The Arts
  • Business & Management
  • The Córdova Congressional Program
  • The Ford Motor Company Global Scholars Program
  • Global Trade & Regional Integration
  • The Governors Internship Program
  • International Affairs
  • Law & Criminal Justice
  • Media & Communication
  • Political Leadership
  • Postgraduate Professional Development
  • Prudential Foundation Global Citizens
  • Science, Technology and Society
  • Competitive Government Programs
  • Intern Abroad


Each academic seminar lasts between a few days to two weeks and offers a look into topics ranging from public policy and media to international affairs and the electoral system.

Seminars Include:

  • Inside Washington
  • Camp David III
  • Top Secret
  • 2012 Political Conventions
  • Presidential Inauguration


Since 1975, The Washington Center serves students both domestically and internationally.

Types of Partners:

  • Colleges & Universities
  • Internship Sites
  • State Governments
  • Governments Around the World
  • Federal Agencies
  • Corporate, Foundation and Individual Donors


Alumni make up many fields, including: law, politics, medicine, business, nonprofits, education and others.


In 2010, in conjunction with MTV-U and Destination DC, The Washington Center launched InternsROCK!, the first-ever citywide intern appreciation week. The initiative has supported approximately 20,000 interns who flock to DC each year to test-drive their careers at local businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. In just the first year, 60 restaurants, museums, sporting venues, concert halls and boutique retails outlets came together and offered a variety of discounts to all interns in Washington, DC.

During 2010, 1,200 students participated in InternsROCK! In 2011 the number of interns participating in InternsROCK! doubled to 2,200. The initiative supported 10 percent of all students interning in DC during the second year. For 2012 and beyond, InternsROCK! will be expanded to include a kick-off event, new student workshops and even more partnerships with large corporations and community businesses.


External links

  • Official website
  • The Washington Center on Facebook
  • interview with students from The Washington Center, January 24, 2010Q&AC-SPAN
  • interview with students from The Washington Center, January 16, 2011Q&AC-SPAN
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